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The grace and elegance of Gautam Gambhir

A delight to watch, the grace and elegance of Gautam Gambhir is a refreshing sight on the Indian cricket horizon. His remarkable double century against England U19 in the second Test at Chepauk in Chennai was embellished with shots of every description. Here's a young man who believes in getting stuck into any ball which is there to be hit. For a lad who started out as a bowler in school cricket, Gambhir has come a long way. Beginning at No.8 or 9 in the Under 16s, he moved to a stable No.3, at which position he made his first class debut in the Ranji Super League against Rajasthan last season.

The break came for him at a moment when he was suffering acute pangs of disappointment, being left out of the Under19 World Cup squad last January after being named in the probables. In Gambhir's second match, against defending champions Karnataka in Bangalore, he made 73 on a seaming wicket against Venkatesh Prasad and Co. which must have restored his bruised morale. A call-up to the National Cricket Academy followed in May and going by Gambhir's results in the current season, the months of hard work in Bangalore have paid off with a vengeance.

Appointed captain of the Delhi Under19s for the Cooch Behar Trophy, Gambhir moved up to open the innings, and revelled in a hitherto unfamiliar setting. Against Punjab in the zonal league, he carried his bat for a magnificent unbeaten 218 out of 320, a staggering 68 % of the total. The attack included two bowlers with first class experience in Gagandeep Singh and Sandeep Sawal. Returning to the Ranji Trophy after completing his Cooch Behar engagements, Gambhir struck a 92-ball century in his fourth first class game, against Jammu & Kashmir. And although Delhi were routed by Punjab in their final league clash, Gambhir, despite making only 21 in each innings, incredibly top scored on each occasion.

After a sluggish start to the series against the England Under19s, Gambhir made a remarkable turnaround at Chennai, where he will return next month for the Ranji Trophy pre-quarterfinal against Tamil Nadu. With an assembly-line of gluttonous middle order batsmen in the land, Gambhir would do well to settle down permanently in the opening spot. Indeed he professes to have a liking for the medium-pace stuff, because the ball comes nicely on to the bat, confessing that his defence against the spinners is a 'bit dicey'.

Gambhir showed little discomfort, though, while attacking the spinners, dragging Panesar from outside off stump to deep midwicket or stepping out and lofting Sadler straight back over his head in Chennai. Caution is not a word in his lexicon, and that can be both a formidable strength and a besetting weakness. There are times when his shot selection is flawed, when he betrays a sense of impatience. But these are just the trappings of youth; his judgement can only be tempered in the cauldron of experience. For now, let us just sit back and drink in the sight of Gambhir punching through the covers off the backfoot or whipping through midwicket off his legs, with equal felicity.

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Gautam Gambhir
Gautam Gambhir

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